Koh Phayam, Thailand – March 2016
For some strange reason tourists always seem to hate other tourists, and everyone is searching for that hidden beach that no one else has ever seen. Hence books like ‘The Beach’. Well, I’ve been coming to Thailand for over 40 years, long before Lonely Planet books had even gotten off of Tony and Maureen’s kitchen table. In 1975 my girl friend – later first wife – and I looked at a map and picked what seemed like an interesting island at random. We figured out how to get there, took a 12 hour train ride, then a jet boat ferry to the island and it was exactly as we had expected. No paved roads, some unpaved ones, one small town with only two hotels and there were 4 other foreigners on the entire island. Miles and miles of beautiful, uninhabited beaches, not a tourist in sight. The name of that hidden gem of an island? Koh Samui!
Recently some of my friends in Nepal have been going to a small, little-known island in the Andaman Sea called Koh Phayam. Very little development, no paved roads or cars, just bicycles and scooters allowed. It sounded like my kind of place. To get there catch the night bus to Ranong at the Southern Bus Terminal, near Victory Monument. Take the 8:00pm VIP bus for a comfortable seat.
You get to Ranong about 6:00am, then take a local tuk-tuk or taxi/truck to the pier and wait until 7:30am for the fast boat to leave, or wait a bit longer for the cheaper ferry.
Carry as little as possible, since the only way to get to your hotel is on the back of a scooter. I have an Osprey Fairpoint 40, which has great backpacking straps, but they also zip away for airlines. Don’t ever carry anything with wheels, only assholes, douchebags and amateurs carry those wimpy pieces of crap. The wheels are heavy and take up a lot of room. Great for pulling through an airport if you are about 80 years old, but not anything resembling adventure.
There are two main beaches – Aow Yai, Sunset Bay; and Aow Khao Kwai,
Buffalo Bay. I stayed at P.P. Eco-Lodge, owned by a Belgian named Paul, attracted by the promise of organic vegetables he grows himself. I wasn’t disappointed. I had a small, 700 Baht bungalow on the beach, and it was perfect for me. I could lounge in the hammock on the porch, jump in the water to cool off, read, write, and relax.
If you are looking for Full Moon parties, cafes with free wifi and custom lattes and expressos, this is NOT the place for you. If you like to chill out and relax, as far from the tourist hordes at the big resorts as you can get, you might want to consider Koh Phayam.